The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth


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In the forenoon we killed a fine fat buffalo, and rested to take breakfast. The intestines were taken out, and a portion of them cleansed and roasted. A long one was then brought into our mess, which numbered ten warriors, who formed a circle, every man taking hold of the intestine with his thumb and finger. In this position, very solemnly regarded by all in the circle, certain questions were propounded to each in relation to certain conduct in the village, which is of a nature unfit to be entered into here. They are religiously committed to a full and categorical answer to each inquiry, no matter whom their confession may implicate. Every illicit action they have committed since they last went to war is here exposed, together with the name of the faithless accomplice, even to the very date of the occurrence. All this is divulged to the medicine men on the return of the party, and it is by them noted down in a manner that it is never erased while the guilty confessor lives. Every new warrior, at his initiation, is conjured by the most sacred oaths never to divulge the warpath secret to any woman, on pain of instant death. He swears by his gun, his pipe, knife, earth, and sun, which are the most sacred oaths to the Indian, and are ever strictly observed.2

According to information to Lowie from Bear-gets-up,

the form employed in calling off was first to mention the woman’s and her husband’s name, and then to add, "I slept with her." It was believed that if all the members of a war party spoke the truth they would have good luck. . . . Sometimes the woman thus charged with adultery denied her guilt. At times the husbands happened to be of the party and were present at the calling off of their wives’ names; some did not seem to care and caused no trouble on their return, while others might leave their faithless spouses.1

But according to other information the custom as sometimes practiced was not a confession of sin but had the rather boasting aspect of pledging to perform a certain deed in the name of a mistress. In some cases "each man would take out some trinket presented to him by his mistress and call out her name," or say, "I shall bring a horse for So-and-so."2

2Bonner, T.D.n/an/an/an/a, , 157–158.

1 Lowie, R. H., "Social Life of the Crow Indians," Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist., Anth. Pap., 9: 225.

2Ibid., 224.

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Chicago: The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed June 20, 2024, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=KL7Q13S4KMXWQDB.

MLA: . The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 20 Jun. 2024. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=KL7Q13S4KMXWQDB.

Harvard: , The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 20 June 2024, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=KL7Q13S4KMXWQDB.